Waterside Added to the Watch List of NYC Landmarks
Waterside Plaza is included in the Municipal Art Society’s Watch List of Future Landmarks. The Watch List, which is called 30 UNDER 30, is composed of thirty buildings built in the last thirty years. Because of their age, they are not yet eligible for landmark status. According to the Society, today’s buildings – which will be considered “historic” by future generations – must be monitored, or watched, now so that they will survive long enough to tell the story of the late 20th century.
When Waterside opened it drew rave reviews. Paul Goldenberger, then the architecture critic for the New York Times, praised the “visually exciting form” of the towers and said the complex “ennobles both the city and its riverfront.” In 2001, architecture critic Herbert Muschamp described Waterside as a “great urban composition” that is “picturesque and historically informed.”
“People tend to overlook Waterside Plaza,” said Muschap. The architects, Davis, Brody & Associates, successfully aspired to the stark geometric power of Louis Kahn’s work, he said, “but the complex also recalls the towers of San Gimignano, the walled medieval town in Tuscany. In place of walls, it has the East River and the F.D.R. Drive, in a more stark geometric design artistically faithful to the urban concept. It is picturesque and historically informed” he said. “And if you drive along the F.D.R., the curve beneath the towers is awesome”.
The Municipal Art Society jury reviewed more than 150 buildings that were nominated to the Watch List by Society members, design professionals, and the public. They used a set of established criteria to judge the buildings based on their artistic, technological, historical, and canonic merits, and weighed the influence they had on design and culture in the city and worldwide. The 30 UNDER 30 selected by the jury include commercial, residential, cultural, religious and industrial buildings constructed between 1974 and 2004. The jury was chaired by architect Sherida Paulsen, and included Paola Antonelli, Joseph Giovannini, Kitty Hawks, Paul Makovsky, Greg Pasquarelli, Nina Rappaport, David Sokol, and Jacob Tilove.
The Only Residential Towers East of the FDR
Waterside Plaza was completed in 1974. Built over 2,000 concrete pilings going down 80 feet into the bed of New York’s East River, this complex of 1,470 apartments can be described as a self-contained residential island. In addition to apartments, the complex contains offices, retail spaces and parking garages concealed beneath a landscaped plaza. The slender towers range in height from 31 to 37 stories.
The pinwheel plan of the towers and their stepped and faceted profiles gives apartment dwellers unparalleled river views. Sculptural forms, the texture of large scale brick and concrete, greenery and views make Waterside an urban experience that transcends typical residential settings.
A network of riverside pedestrian walks and plaza reinforces the drama of location and provides ample opportunity for community life. Steps lead from the plaza to the river’s edge and a pedestrian bridge spans the FDR Drive to 25th Street.
In the fall of 2001, Herbert Muschamp, noted architectural critic for the New York Times, cited Waterside Plaza in his list of New York’s architectural feats, along with Central Park, the U. N. headquarters and the Museum of Modern Art. More than a quarter of a century after initial construction, the New York Times captions a photo of the development with the statement “The towers of Waterside Plaza stand like citadels on the East River”.
Waterside still stands as one of the largest residential and commercial complexes in New York City, and as the only structure built east of the FDR Highway, it continues to be a vital part of Manhattan’s eastside skyline.